Substrate specificity and contribution of the glycosyltransferase UGT71A15 to phloridzin biosynthesis
The dihydrochalcone phloridzin (phloretin 2′-O-glucoside) is the most abundant phenolic compound in apple trees (Malus × domestica) and was also discussed to have an influence on the pathogen defence by shifting the dihydrochalcone profile from the glucosides to the more active aglycones. The final step in the biosynthesis of phloridzin is the glycosylation of phloretin at position 2′. Three cDNA clones from apple encoding glycosyltransferases are available which are able to catalyze the reaction in vitro. We investigated the possible role of glycosyltransferase UGT71A15 in phloridzin biosynthesis. The recombinant enzyme showed broad substrate acceptance but highest activities were observed with flavonols. Specific activities and the kinetic data indicated that phloretin is not the preferred native substrate of the UGT71A15. However, an increase of the molar ratio phloridzin:phloretin was found in transgenic lines, indicating a physiological relevance of UGT71A15 in planta, although a decrease of the total amount of dihydrochalcones in the majority of the samples was found. Unexpectedly, the increase of the phloridzin:phloretin ratio was not reflected by an increase of the total glucosyltransferase activities. In contrast, the majority of transgenic plants showed a reduced glucosylating activity with both phloretin and quercetin as a substrate, but the observed activity changes in a given sample were not similar for the two substrates. An increased susceptibility of M. robusta against the fire blight causing bacterium E. amylovora as a result of UGT71A15 overexpression could not be observed. Overexpression of UGT71A15 in transgenic apple trees also did not lead to morphological changes.